It’s okay to “want your body back” after pregnancy.
It’s okay to love that you are able to be pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby, but to really dislike pregnancy itself.
It’s okay to want to care about how you look and not JUST about how you feel.
Listen, I get it. I totally get that since the dawn of mirrors (and well before that), women have been held to ridiculous beauty standards.
We aren’t supposed to age. Our hair isn’t supposed to turn gray. Our skin isn't supposed to wrinkle - as it naturally should over time. Our bodies aren’t supposed to have fat on them in some places, but are supposed to be full and plump in others - regardless of genetics.
We are supposed to “bounce” back to looking the way we looked before we:
grew a human in our bodies for 9 months,
squeezed them out of a small hole (either existing or surgically cut) in our bodies,
and possibly existed as a food source for months or years with constant sucking and gravity taking their toll.
And I get that we want to stand up against that impossible standard. We want to replace it with a message of kindness to ourselves and normalize the fact that our bodies change throughout our lives. And I wholeheartedly support this shift in messaging.
But I also get that we can appreciate what our bodies have done for us and our babies, but still think back to our pre-pregnancy bodies, longing for the strength and function - and yes, shape - we once had, that made us feel our best. We can long for that, just as much as we long for that taken-for-granted-autonomy we once knew.
We can love our bodies as they are today, but still want to feel like they are OURS again.
For almost a year of my life, every decision I made about what went in and on my body was not about me. Instead, I was hyper-focused on what was best for this growing baby (and with breastfeeding, that is still my reality).
I had no control over what my body looked like as it grew and changed to keep our little girl nourished and safe. I watched muscles atrophy, certain body parts swell, others stretch and still others flatten or droop. These changes didn't happen because of anything in my control. They didn't happen because I wasn’t working out every day and eating well. In fact, I worked out daily, walked the equivalent of a marathon each week and was eating almost solely to provide nutrients the baby needed rather than for my taste buds (seriously, I had an entire spreadsheet detailing what to eat to optimize nutrients for what she needed). I had to adjust my workouts to protect my core and pelvic floor by lifting lighter weights and going slower. Our bodies know what the baby needs and we may hold on to extra fat because of that, regardless of how we eat and move.
The physical changes were even more mentally challenging. I didn’t feel desirable or even a little bit attractive for at least 10 months. I felt regularly bloated - even early on - and was very uncomfortable in clothes that had previously always given me a boost of confidence.
My confidence actually plummeted by month 3, and crept lower every day.
I had a harder time than I could have ever dreamed I’d have with body image, while pregnant.
Now, after giving birth - because I decided to breastfeed - I still only get to have parts of my body be mine again. The boobs are still on lease. I'm still needed as a food source (sometimes more than every hour), still need to worry about nutrition and what is passing through to my breast milk, still have raw nipples, clogged ducts, and still don’t recognize my body as it once was.
But I get some parts to myself again. My belly is mine again, my workouts can resume intensity (after a very intentional and lengthy healing protocol for the core and pelvic floor). I'm no longer swollen and puffy in places both visible and not.
So when it seems we are not “allowed” to want our bodies “back” at the risk of being labeled "anti- body positive" or “buying into diet culture”... I get a little f*ing pissed, if I’m being honest.
How dare anyone else tell me that, after all I gave up, all I (happily) sacrificed, and all that I had to put off for so long, that I have to just be okay with whatever shape my body is in postpartum? Because otherwise I am mom-shaming...
How dare anyone shame me for wanting to look a certain way that made me feel confident in the past? Why can't we want and get that confidence back, without being accused of shaming others or not loving ourselves?
How dare they insinuate that it's toxic to want to feel like ourselves again?
Our selves. Not just a baby-growing-feeding-machine that exists solely to be a mom.
Well I say to those people, kindly F off. Seriously.
You do you. Feel how you feel about your body and your journey in motherhood. Be okay with your body changing, and don’t feel the need to do anything about it. That is a mentally healthy approach for many women.
But it’s not the only approach. It's not the only way to heal.
So don’t you dare try to shame us for “wanting our bodies back”.
And I’m not talking about “bouncing” back.
There has been and will be no bouncing.
There has been struggling and sweating and crying and pushing and 2 steps forward, 1 step back.
There has been determination, and perseverance.
And I will get there.
It won’t be the old “there”, and I don't want it to be.
It will be a new one, with scars both physical and not, to prove where I've been.
A new version of me who is a mother and a fighter.
A mother who cares about gaining back her strength, pelvic floor integrity, and how she looks in a great pair of jeans.
Because I feel good when I’m strong, when I’m healed, and when I look my best.
We get to be mothers AND individuals.
We get to be their home, their source of food and comfort, and their strong confident role models.
We get to feel good again - and for some of us that means looking good too.
And we won’t be dismissed as vain or toxic or “promoting diet culture” or anti- “body positivity” for wanting the "and".
If you’ve felt this way… girl I’m here to chat, or just be a sounding board. Because I get it. I get you. I am you.
We can love our bodies…what they did for us, what they are capable of, how they’ve changed and the proof of that change that we now wear proudly.
And we can want and work for the bodies we are most comfortable in with the strength and functionality we remember from before.
Because what better way to show our babies all that they are capable of than by setting that example ourselves?
The example to not sit back and accept a reality we don’t feel good in.
The example to push and sweat and maybe cry our way through the obstacles to achieve the things we want, the way only a mom can.